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Why Do Most Countries Including the US Drive on the Right?

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Livingsta is a writer who writes about anything that fascinates, provokes or interests her, always putting forth her best effort and focus.

Picture above shows right hand driving !

Picture above shows right hand driving !

Research says that almost two-thirds to three-quarters of the world drive on the right, while only one third to a quarter of the world drive on the left. Also, it is mostly the British colonies that drive on the left. This is quite surprising, but they have valid reasons for driving on the left-hand side of the road.

In my research, I found that:

  • 66.1% of the world’s people live in right-hand traffic countries
  • 33.9% of the world’s people live in left-hand traffic countries
  • 72% of the world’s road distance carries traffic on the right
  • 28% of the world’s road distance carries traffic on the left
Red colour depicts the countries with right-hand traffic and Blue colour shows the countries with left-hand traffic

Red colour depicts the countries with right-hand traffic and Blue colour shows the countries with left-hand traffic

Why Do We Drive On The Right in the U.S?

During the early days, almost everybody traveled on the left side of the road. People found it easier and correct because of the way the societies were back then. A vast majority of people were right-handed. Swordsmen preferred to keep to the left so that they could use their right arm to defend themselves. It also allowed them to wear the sheath for a sword, dagger, or bayonet (also called the scabbard), on their left arm. That way it wouldn't hit other people they pass by. It was also easier for them to mount the horses from the left rather than from the right, that way they had to ride the horses on the left-hand side of the road.

Later on the in the late 1700s, France and US started using wagons to transport farm products. The wagons were driven by several horses. In order to keep control of the team, the driver sat on the horse which was to the left, rear side of the group, so he could use his right arm to handle the group. In order for him to keep an eye on the road and maintain the position on the road for oncoming vehicles, the wagons had to be driven on the right-hand side of the road. Also according to history, the French revolution that took place in 1789 had a huge impact on right hand driving in Europe (aristocrats driving on the left wanted to be in level with the peasants who were driving on the right) and in 1794, right-hand driving was made a rule in Paris and a year before that in 1793 in Denmark too.

Britain, however, did not follow right-hand driving, and in 1835 left-hand driving was made mandatory in Britain. Also, countries that were part of the British empire follow left-hand driving, which includes India, Australasia and the former British colonies in Africa (Egypt is an exception).

Japan, which was not part of the British Empire, also drives on the left, for reasons dating back to the Edo period in history.

Years before when the English had colonized North America, the colonies drove on the left following the English customs. After independence from the British, they moved to right-hand driving. Right hand driving law was passed for the drivers first in Pennsylvania in 1792 and then later in New York in 1804 and New Jersey in 1813. Canada started right-hand driving only after the Second World War.

The power of driving right grew up as most European countries started driving on the right. American cars were designed to be driven on the right. Many countries imported American cars due to their reliability and being economical. As a result of this, those countries that imported American cars had to maintain right-hand driving because of the design.

Why the British Drive on the Left?

Great Britain also considered changing to right hand driving in the 1960s, but taking into account the expenses to change everything which would cost billions of pounds, the then Government used its power to stop Britain from going to right-hand driving. Today only four European countries drive left, while the rest drive right.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

Comments

cadifan on August 10, 2019:

"As a result of this, those countries that imported American cars had to maintain right-hand driving because of the design."

I don't think that is correct as Americas cars were built RHD until Henry Ford's Model T which was the first standard LHD car in the US. Also most of New Zealand's first car were American up to WWII but were all assembled RHD (including Model T's).

livingsta (author) from United Kingdom on August 20, 2013:

Hi Paul,

Thank you so much for reading and sharing your thoughts / experiences. I do understand how you feel when you are so used to a particular type of driving.

Thank you for the votes and all the shares. Hope you had a good day :-)

livingsta (author) from United Kingdom on August 20, 2013:

Hi Kathryn, thank you for reading. I am glad that you found this interesting. Hope you are well. Have a good day :-)

Kathryn from Windsor, Connecticut on August 12, 2013:

I have always wondered about the reasons behind that, so this is a very interesting read! Thanks for looking into this for us, and sharing what you learned. Next, I will check out the British "driving on the left" hub.

Have a wonderful day!

~ Kathryn

Paul Richard Kuehn from Udorn City, Thailand on August 11, 2013:

livingsta,

I found this hub extremely interesting as to the historical reasons why people started driving on the right or left. In Thailand people drive on the left. It initially was a little challenge for me when I brought my car from the States over to Thailand to drive. Without a passenger, it was extremely inconvenient paying tolls and passing on two lane roads. Voted up and sharing with followers and on Facebook. Also Pinning and Tweeting.

livingsta (author) from United Kingdom on May 07, 2013:

Hi BkCreative, I can understand what you say. I hope you will get used to this as you travel to England often. Thank you for reading and sharing your thoughts and experience. I am pleased that this information was interesting for you. Have a good day!

BkCreative from Brooklyn, New York City on May 07, 2013:

As one who travels from the US to England quite often - it was a bit nerve wracking while in London because you really had to keep looking both ways so you wouldn't get mowed down. Then you are also supposed to walk on the left in London whereas here in NYC it is always "keep right!" And you're so right, many other places follow the right so it was easy for me to travel everywhere without a thought to traffic flow - but once in London - good grief! Then riding in a car with my cousin - I felt so disoriented. Yikes!

Thanks for an interesting hub.

livingsta (author) from United Kingdom on February 22, 2013:

Thank you DommaLeigh. I am glad it was useful :-)

Have a good weekend!

DommaLeigh on February 22, 2013:

I liked your hub. I never really gave much thought to why we drive on which side of the road.

livingsta (author) from United Kingdom on October 10, 2012:

Hi Vellur, I am glad it was useful! Thank you for reading and the appreciation!

Nithya Venkat from Dubai on October 10, 2012:

Interesting information, now I know. Thanks for sharing.

livingsta (author) from United Kingdom on September 20, 2012:

Thank you @Rajan Jolly!

Rajan Singh Jolly from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA. on September 20, 2012:

Very interesting information. Voted up.

livingsta (author) from United Kingdom on July 10, 2012:

Thank you eHealer for your appreciation!

Deborah from Las Vegas on July 09, 2012:

Great job! I always wondered who was the road god and sanctioned right or left. Thank you very much for answering my question! Voted Up.